Who Am I?

Posted: September 21, 2020 in Meditations

“Religion is not the place where the problem of man’s egotism is automatically solved. Rather, it is there that the ultimate battle between human pride and God’s grace takes place. Insofar as human pride may win the battle, religion can and does become one of the instruments of human sin. But insofar as there the self does meet God and so can surrender to something beyond its own self-interest, religion may provide the one possibility for a much needed and very rare release from our common self-concern.”

Rienhold Niebuhr

“You have nothing to say in this family. Mom makes the money in this house. You don’t even have a job.” My heart sank. These words crushed me. Angry, my daughter went for the throat, my vulnerability obvious. I was unemployed, a meager disability check my only offering. My wife worked long hours, day after day, week after week: the financial burden sat squarely on her shoulders. “Who am I?”, I asked myself. “My own daughter loathes me.” Ego is a powerful force. Self-interest drives all of us for better and worse on this journey called life. My ego flattened, I retreated further into myself. “Is my family better off without me?” I really didn’t know. I clung to faith. Head injuries play wicked games with the ego. What do you do when you no longer trust your own sanity?

“Surely God is my salvation: I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength, and my defense; he has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2 I lived much of my life by my own wits. I was gifted, I worked hard. Pride motivated me, my successes reinforced the drive to cultivate my self-interest. God and faith remained an important part of my life with one caveat; faith was exercised on my terms. God and I were partners in life but I overstepped my junior role on a daily basis. Religion reinforced my ego, it justified my pursuits. But that was now all gone. I lost the facade built by pride. In the eyes of my daughter, I was a pathetic man no longer worthy of her admiration. “So who am I?”, I asked.

“Who is like you, Lord God Almighty? You, Lord, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.” Psalm 89:8 I remember laying in bed alone, very sick. Fatigue, seizures, the fog of prescription drugs: I saw my life shrink to the size of a quarter. I sensed my life ebbing and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it. I looked up at the ceiling and quoted the words of Job, “Tho you slay me, yet will I hope in you.” Job 13:15 The Holy Spirit spoke these simple words to my heart, “As long as you have breath, you have purpose.” That simple truth rejuvenated my spirit. It transformed my thinking, my point of view. My worth, my identity, rested no longer upon self-interest but upon the purposes of God, the author of my life. Each day became a gift, each moment pregnant with divine purpose.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38,39 Who am I? My name is Phil and I am a child of the Most High God. He created me in love, by love, and for love. I partner each day with my senior partner, the Holy Spirit, to commit acts of righteousness. My role as husband and father? As uncle and friend? I love each one with the love of Christ. I choose to speak words of life rather than death. I pray, I invest. I choose the life of no regrets, the life that says no to self and yes to Christ. I savor those “rare releases from common self-concern”. And my daughter? She loves me and I love her, the wonderful dynamic of forgiveness and commitment reigns in our lives. We both know who I am. We both know, in the end, Christ is all that matters.

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